Monday, 15 July 2019

happy little clouds

Painted in triplicate for each episode of The Joy of Painting’s eleven year run, over a thousand originals of Bob Ross’ landscapes exist.
Lovingly curated, however, the paintings are not part of the behemoth art market, turning masterpieces into stores of wealth without patronage but are rather stored in a central repository in Virginia with plans to put some on display at a national gallery. Not tempted to break-up the collection by present pressures, the caretakers of Ross’ legacy are confident that he’d much rather inspire emulation and imitation to create something by one’s own hand over being a sought-after acquisition.

series g

Replacing industrialist partners Matthew Bouton and James Watt of steam-engine fame, the Bank of England’s next batch of £ fifty notes will feature on the reverse mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing, whose pioneering work not only helped defeat Nazi Germany by decrypting transmissions between command and control and the front but was also indispensably formative in how we regard electronic cognition and artificial intelligence.
Speaking of his work programming the British Bombe, one of his code-breaking electro-mechanical machines, the bill has the quotation, “This is only a foretaste of what is to come and only the shadow of what is going to be.” Although this statement does not amend past missteps—Turing’s contributions only much later acknowledged and rehabilitated and the country’s marked ingratitude, such decisions are consequential and meaningful, standing in marked contrast to the United States, whose money mostly only features dead presidents and the planned roll-out of a black, female abolitionist on the $ twenty note was delayed and deferred over the current pretender’s affection for the observe as it stands, featuring a president infamous as a slavery apologist and for his genocidal treatment of Native Americans.

team democracy

Provocatively the US Sh*t-Poster-in-Chief launched an attack on a group of progressive congress members, unbidden but not quite of the blue, that rounded the gauntlet for racism, xenophobia and misogyny. Tweeting throughout the day Sunday, Trump criticised the four freshmen representatives, known as the Squad for disrespecting America and America's allies and spoiling morale and cohesion within the rival Democratic Party.
While it is unclear what is the best strategy to pursue to dislodge the Trump syndicate from government, the infighting is far from sectarian and disagreement is healthy for democracy and certainly does not merit the ugly arson of language unacceptable in any context—Trump telling the duly elected representatives and their constituents (and Trump’s supporters since all this transpired very publicly) that they should not presume to dictate to a great power such as the United States of America how it ought to operate and instead invited them to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.” All four members of the Squad are America citizens and all but one were born in the US. Though not the first time Trump has used such hateful vitriol to pander to his political and ideology base—his political career such as it is premised on amplifying a narrative that called into question the legitimacy of his predecessor based on lies about his citizenship, this schoolyard bully may have finally picked the wrong fight.  Trump was not wrong in his own assessment that their government is a catastrophe and in urgent need of reform and made unequivocally clear that his regime is only focused on retaining power to keep him unaccountable and out of court. 

Sunday, 14 July 2019


From one of our favourite weekly features, Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links, we are invited to ruminate over the fact that while most countries are named after one of four things—often tautologically, especially in translation—that are sometimes not very consequential to present geopolitics, there are some notable mavericks that defy or really lean into categorisation.
With nearly all countries named in deference to either a cardinal direction, a distinguishing geographical feature, a tribe or clan or an important personage, we’d wish that the campaign to make America great again was an effort to improve scholarship on the Latinised name of a fifteenth century Florentine cartographer from the Vespucci family but alas and alack.  There are nonetheless some notable (and notably disputed too) outliers as well. Our favouites being Malta named for bees (Μελίτη, honey-sweet), Mexico after a simplification of an Aztec city (Mēxihtli) that meant in the navel of the Moon and the Pacific island nation of Nauru, possibly derived from the native conjugation anáoero, I go to the beach.

чеховское жвачка

Our thanks to Memo of the Air for referring us to this low-stakes version of the dramatic principle of narrative parsimony and the clearing away of MacGuffins and red-herrings that’s come to be known as Chekhov’s Gun—appearing in the collected correspondence of the renowned Russian playwright.
Like the host not wanting to presume that we need the joke explained to us, but as Anton Chekhov implored his interlocutor, fellow author A. S. Gruzinsky, to “remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter [act] that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third it absolutely must go off. If it is not going to be fired, it should not be hanging there.” Contrarily, other writers—like Ernest Hemingway—have put extra stock in these incidental details, insisting that the reader wants and deserves a subject to read into even if there’s no payoff, like bottle-episodes and (see above) Monster-of-the-Week.  Read the rest of the comics from Ruben Bolling (previously) at the link above. 


We enjoyed this informative graphic by xkcd (aka Randall Munroe, previously) on flag interpretation and special hoisting protocols to signal distress, mourning, respect and apparently also bewilderment—the flag lowered, at least in accordance with some traditions, to make room for an “invisible flag of death” on the flagpole to fly above it. Visit the link above to see all the panels and discover more of Munroe’s comics.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

gouden eeuw

Similar to an ongoing restoration of a Johannes Vermeer work in line with the artist’s intent, Cynical-C directs our attention to a work by Dutch Golden Age painter Judith Jans Leyster (*1609 – †1660), an avowed talent among her peers and accepted into the Haarlem Guild but rather tragically forgotten after her death, called The Last Drop.
Somewhat rehabilitated and recognised as a pioneer among her cohort around the turn of the last century (though this painting was still misattributed until a keen observer noticed her JL* monogram on the tipped tankard), it is thought that a dealer committed the act of overpainting the skeletal figure brandishing an hourglass—which surely held significance as the dissolution that revelry ultimately brings as there was an accompanying genre piece called the Merry Trio (one dropped out apparently) that depicts an earlier phase of drinking, to make the work more marketable and less moralising when it was acquired by the Guildhall gallery in London in 1908. After extensive research and x-ray analysis, curators were able to bring back the original scene in the 1990s.